As the “Black Monday” campaign to have four human rights officers and an election official released from prison entered its fifth week, police arrested seven activists as they attempted to protest outside Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison on Monday morning.
At about 9:50 a.m., police stopped four activists traveling to the prison in a tuk-tuk and forced them into the bed of a police truck and brought them to the Dangkao district police station. Three more activists were arrested 10 minutes later as they attempted to lay lotus flowers in front of the prison’s gate.
“Injustice. This is a great injustice. I have done nothing wrong,” said Im Srey Touch, a prominent activist from the Boeng Kak neighborhood, as she was pushed onto a truck.
City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada confirmed the arrests but declined to say why the protesters were taken into custody.
“We arrested seven people,” he said. “Now they are at the Dangkao district police office.”
The Black Monday campaign was launched by a group of NGOs after the jailing of four officers from rights group Adhoc and a longtime officer at the organization who had recently become a top administrator on the country’s election commission. All five were charged with bribing an alleged mistress of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha to deny the affair.
The case has been widely derided as a politically motivated effort by the ruling CPP to suppress dissent. Senior government officials have warned that the Black Monday protests constitute an attempt to stage a “color revolution” and must be stopped.
The NGOs that began the campaign have largely backed off amid government threats; some have moved their efforts online.
A small group of activists from the capital’s eviction-hit communities have been alone in keeping the protests alive on the ground, and Monday marked the third time in five weeks that they have been arrested. In the previous occasions, they were released by the end of the day after signing contracts promising not to continue to demonstrate.
Mr. Chanyada said he did not know when the latest group would be released.
“I’m not sure yet. We are waiting for the people to question them because some of them abused the contract…. So what measures can we take against them?”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of activists arrested on a tuk-tuk and in front of Prey Sar prison.